The Homeowner's Advocate Series
HOT SPOT INSPECTIONS @
436 HUNTERS RIDGE CIRCLE, COPPELL TEXAS 75019 TELEPHONE - 469.585.1702
436 HUNTERS RIDGE CIRCLE, COPPELL TEXAS 75019 TELEPHONE - 469.585.1702
Welcome back to the Homeowner’s Advocate Newsletter where we give you useful information each month to help keep your house in great shape so you can enjoy it for years to come. Preserve your investment—and keep your family safe and healthy—by maintaining your home using the following tips.
HVAC = Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning
Your home's central air-conditioning system must be regularly inspected and maintained to function efficiently. An annual inspection by a trained professional is recommended. However, you can do a lot of the work yourself by following the tips offered here. I am including information here for the most common type of Air Condition systems we use here in Texas. If you have an older home with an evaporative cooler or live in a different climate zone, there are other maintenance routines that will apply to you and are not included here. Give us a call if you would like more information.
Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components
The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the house that’s designed to push heat from the indoors to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal "fins" that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat.
Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components --
after turning off power to the unit, of course.
Inspect the Condensate Drain Line
Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the unit. They’re located on the side of the inside fan unit. There should be two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked.
You can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take very little time and require no specialized tools:
Replace the Air Filter
Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 20 x 25 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade the quality of the home’s indoor, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, if any family members have respiratory problems, if you have pets with fur, and/or if it’s particularly dusty indoors.
Read the features on the air filters at your local store and try different models to see which filter type provide the best results for your home.
Thermostats are designed to control the heating and cooling system in the home so that the air temperature and humidity level remains comfortable. You should understand how thermostats operate, as well as the more common problems associated with them. Start by reading your manual and learn how to program your thermostat.
Thermostats can be manually controlled or programmed. Most thermostats contain two meters: the “set” temperature that the thermostat is asking for, and the actual temperature. On a traditional dial-type thermostat, the user can increase the set temperature by rotating the dial clockwise, and lower it by rotating it counter-clockwise. Newer thermostats usually have digital displays, touch screens and even apps for your smart phones, which can be used to adjust automated heating and cooling schedules.
Apps for controlling modern thermostats can provide lots of useful features and information on how you are using your HVAC equipment. They can even save you money! I estimated my first "smart" thermostat saved me about $50 per month in the hot summer months by detecting when we were away from our home and automatically changing the temperature so we were not waisting money cooling the home when we were away for extended periods. Smart thermostats are a game changer for me and I think they can be for you as well. There is a good chance you can tackle an upgrade to a smart thermostat yourself. Do you research and hire a pro for the install if you are squeamish about doing this on your own.
Using a programmable thermostat in the winter, you can automatically turn down your heat at night or when you’re not at home. In the summer, you can save money by automatically turning your air conditioner up at night or when you’re at work.
You can also adjust the times that the heating and air conditioner go on and off according to a preset schedule. As a result, the equipment doesn't operate as much when you’re asleep or when the house (or a part of it) is empty. Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings (six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.
Sleep experts also say your body temperature drops when you sleep and many people report falling asleep easier by automatically lowering the temperature of the home one or more degrees about an hour before bedtime! WOW! Who new a programmable thermostat could help you sleep better!
In order to avoid false temperature readings, which will cause unnecessary furnace or air-conditioner cycling, the thermostat must be installed so that it correctly reads the room temperature. The following locations may cause the thermostat to give false readings:
Common Thermostat Problems and Solutions
Maintenance and Other Tips
A Few Notes on Energy Savings
Moisture intrusion can be bad for the house and the people and pets in it. You should have at least a basic understanding of how unwanted moisture can enter a home and where problems commonly occur.
Some common moisture-related problems include:
How does moisture get into a house?
Moisture or water vapor moves into a house in the following ways:
In the southern U.S., the problem is largely driven by high outdoor humidity and low indoor temperatures during summer months. Mixed climates are exposed to both conditions and can experience both types of problems. Humid climates, in general, will be more of a problem than dry climates.
Homeowners can check for moisture intrusion in the following areas.
A roof leak may lead to the growth of visible mold colonies in the attic that can grow unnoticed. Roof penetrations (such as chimneys, skylights, and vent stacks and pipes) increase the likelihood of water leaks due to failed gaskets, sealants and flashing.
The number of roof penetrations may be reduced by a variety of technologies and strategies, including:
Model building codes typically require damp-proofing of the foundation. The damp-proofing should be applied from the top of the footing to the finished grade. Moisture problems at the foundation can be complicated and a pro should be consulted if you have evidence of water penetrating your foundation.
Parging of foundation walls should be damp-proofed in one of the following ways:
Condensation, also called sweating, forms on building materials when the temperature drops below the dew point, which is the temperature at which droplets of water vapor are forced so closely together that they coalesce into liquid water. Because of their characteristic thermal conductivity, components made of metal are usually the first places where condensation will appear in a home.
Condensation can be a problem because droplets can pool and destroy surrounding building materials, such as when condensed water chronically drains from a toilet and weakens the bathroom tile floor and sub-floor. Condensation can also pool and encourage the growth of mold, which is a serious health hazard. Dripping overhead pipes can be a problem in a finished basement, as they may damage carpeting, furniture and valuables. Pooled condensation can even cause an electrical fire, or electrocute someone.
Where does condensation typically form?
Metal that does not come into contact with cold water or air rarely exhibits excessive condensation, even though it’s exposed to the same moisture-laden air as everything else around it. A water pipe that carries only warm water, for instance, seldom cools below the dew point. And non-metal building materials that do come into contact with cold water or air (such as plastic drains and piping) often lack the thermal conductivity to become cold enough to be the source of condensation.
Condensation in Older Homes
Condensation is more of a problem in older homes, which often lack a vapor barrier or sealers in the concrete. In such instances, moisture in the ground is forced through the foundation and masonry, which is why condensation is commonly found in the basements of older buildings. The two strategies used to reduce condensation are to lower the relative humidity of the indoor air and to keep surfaces from becoming cold.
These strategies can be practiced in the following ways:
Also, keep in mind that what appears to be condensation may actually be a water leak. If insulation and dehumidification don’t seem to improve the condensation problem -- especially if it’s appearing in only one place –-contact a qualified plumber.
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